EDITORIAL: By the Samoa Observer editorial board
There will be celebrations as well as self-contemplation in newsrooms around the world today to mark World Press Freedom Day 2023, with the Fourth Estate facing some of its biggest challenges yet.
It was only close to two years ago when Samoa’s constitutional crisis tested the resolve of the media industry, with the nation, as well as families and households, split along political party lines, to also put further pressure on journalists and media practitioners who were working hard on the frontlines to keep the nation abreast of the historical political developments.
Battered and exhausted from the weeks of political turmoil at that time, sandwiched between two political camps, the task of informing the nation and its citizens of a new government was left to the Samoan media industry.
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It was our job to pick up the pieces and report back to the nation as best as we can on what just occurred and to continue to give the message of hope and assurance to the general population that the seat of government didn’t change, it was just that the custodianship of the seat of government had changed hands.
And the journey of this great nation continues nonetheless.
So just over two years after the last general election, the trigger of the constitutional crisis, this newspaper demonstrates its ongoing commitment to improvement and growth by launching a new design to give our readers a more content-rich experience.
New features include “funday” pages and “news in numbers” while keeping a foot in the digital world with QR codes for “today’s top 10 stories” at a touch of a button on your smartphones.
This newspaper’s core business of informing, educating, and empowering its readership with the latest news and information has not changed.
In fact, the goal post hasn’t changed too with this newspaper committed to the values upheld by its founder, Gatoaitele Savea Sano Malifa to seek the truth, hold governments to account, and report without fear or favour.
The celebration of World Press Freedom Day 2023 today revolves around the theme “Shaping a Future of Rights: Freedom of expression as a driver for all other human rights”.
We believe the theme of today’s celebrations, set by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), succinctly highlights the importance of freedom of expression and its intrinsic link to the media and how it is through freedom of expression that we get to promote all other human rights.
According to UNESCO, four fundamental freedoms are outlined in the Preamble of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights: freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom from fear, and freedom from want.
But it is the freedom of speech that comes first as it is the fundamental freedom that enables all the other rights.
“The right to freedom of expression and its corollary, the right to access information, allow us to seek, receive and impart information, ideas, concepts, and beliefs across borders and cultures.
“And in this exercise, the media and journalists play an essential role: they help verify and disseminate facts, they create spaces for ideas to be debated and for the voiceless to be heard, and they render complex matters intelligible for the public at large.”
And we hope too for more press conferences convened by leaders in the government to enable us in the media to do our jobs and a better understanding and appreciation of the role of the media and its contribution to Samoa’s development.
On that note, we take this opportunity to wish our colleagues in Samoa’s media industry Happy World Press Freedom Day 2023 celebrations.
Seeing colleagues appear on television, listening to them on the radio, or seeing their bylines in their online content confirms that we’ve just got on with the business of informing the nation despite the challenges we’ve faced.
And there is no better gift to this nation of 200,000 than to maintain our focus on our primary responsibility to bring them news on issues that directly impact their lives.
Even though we fall and stumble sometimes, as we go about our work to keep the country informed, let’s strive to better ourselves for the good of our readers, listeners, and viewers.
The Samoa Observer has traditionally been one of the leading Pacific newspapers fighting for press freedom.This editorial was published on 3 May 2023 – World Press Freedom Day — and is republished with permission.